- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 6, 2003

WASHINGTON, March 6 (UPI) — NATO has deployed three Dutch-owned Patriot air defense missile batteries in southeastern Turkey, the alliance announced Thursday.

The batteries have been deployed at Diyarbakir and Batman and are in place to respond if Iraq launches Scud missiles or combat aircraft at Turkey, its neighbor to the north.

The German air force contributed additional enhanced Patriot missiles to the batteries.

NATO sent two E-3A Airborne Warning and Control System aircraft to Konya, Turkey, where they began surveillance flights on Feb. 26. AWACS is both an enemy surveillance platform and a flying air traffic control center.

The provision of Patriot batteries and NATO AWACS caused a brief rift in the alliance in early February when Germany, France and Belgium refused for three weeks to permit their deployment. The three countries believed doing so was tantamount to approving the probable U.S.-led war on Iraq.

After more than a month of wrangling, NATO shifted the decision from the alliance's political council to its military committee, essentially sidelining France which does not participate in the latter. Germany and Belgium withdrew their objections on Feb. 16 and the defensive equipment was approved for Turkey.

The Turkish Parliament last Saturday refused to allow nearly 60,000 American soldiers to base in Turkey for a strike in northern Iraq. The Anatolia news agency reported Thursday the Turkish government would wait for the U.N. Security Council to decide on Iraq before asking parliament to reconsider deployment of U.S. troops.

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